Special Interview ‘koach’–mission with a Difference

The United Jewish Appeal’s “Koach Mission” in Israel is different from all other missions in many ways. It is the largest ever (1000 participants), the youngest ever (25-40 years of age), probably the most dramatic over (members swore an oath of Zionist allegiance atop Masada at nightfall, torches blazing), certainly the most enthusiastic ever.

R. Alan Rudy, chairman of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet and leader of the Koach Mission, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the most important feature of the 10-day visit was the promise it held for the future the future of these rising young American Jewish professional and businessmen for whom this mission will remain a memorable experience. For them and the wives who were present, the mission will be the cement that will seal their commitment to Israel and Jewishness, he observed.

A high proportion of the mission participants had never been here before, Rudy noted. The experience will hopefully have a multiplier effect, as they radiate their impressions to friends and acquaintances in their 123 communities across the U.S. The “real breakthrough” of this mission, Rudy said, was the home hospitality program through which each member met with three sets of Israeli families of his/her own age and interests.

Rudy, a 39-year-old Houston, Texas realtor with many years of UJA experience behind him and many trips to Israel, felt there is abysmal ignorance in Israel about the average American, and about the average American Jew, American Jews are probably more knowledgeable about Israelis than vice-versa, he observed.

PROGRAM SURPASSED EXPECTATIONS

The Koach program helped participants get a first-hand insight into Israeli lives and problems–and also to explain to their Israeli hosts Jewish life and experience in the U.S. The program surpassed expectations, Rudy related, Watching in a Tel Aviv hotel lobby one night, he saw mission members and their hosts returning arm in arm from an evening of warmth and friendship.

He was very complimentary of UJA’s Israel office under Haim Vinitzky and of his own executive officer David Adler who together arranged the complex logistics of this mammoth mission. The “Dor Hemshech” (young leadership) section. of the World Zionist Organization arranged the hospitality programs.

When I met Rudy at 8 a.m. for breakfast he had already been meeting for an hour with a group of five disgruntled mission members. For them everything seemed to have gone wrong. The guide, the Israelis hosts, etc…but they were the sole dissatisfied customers, All the other 995 seemed more than pleased with their action-packed program that included meetings with Israel’s top leaders, a march through Jerusalem’s streets, a religious experience at the Western Wall, and the oath ceremony stop Masada, attended by the army’s top tank commander Gen. Moshe Peled.

REASONS FOR TOUGH TIMES AHEAD

Differing from some of the veteran UJA leaders, Rudy saw some tough and not always successful campaigning ahead, Several factors, he believed, in the American and American Jewish mood militate against the UJA’s effort in support of Israeli:

“The economic crisis is still hurting people.”

The “pseudo-peace feeling” after the Sinai accord takes the edge off peoples anxiety about Israel.

A “more subtle, insidious process” whereby “it may be becoming less acceptable for American Jews to do what they used to do…becoming less popular to be Jewish,” In this connection Rudy referred to a “backlash” from the anti-Semitic remarks by Gen. George S. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Brown told an audience at Duke University Law School on Oct. 10, 1974 that Jews exerted too much influence in Congress and own the banks and newspapers in this country. (President Ford rebuked Brown and Brown himself apologized publicly several times for his remarks.)

“Israel is less in favor with U.S. public opinion, partly because of the current aid figure proposed for it, “Israel used to be good and cheap, and therefore popular,” Rudy observed.

“A recent Harris poll showed that 30 percent, of those interviewed had anti-Semitic feelings.

Congress contains a larger number of young liberal legislators who are primarily concerned with issues in their own communities.

Rudy spoke of “Israelis who should know better” exaggerating the power and influence of American Jewry and underestimating the pluck and guts needed to do what American Jews actually do in support of Israel. The cloudy vista he saw facing Israel’s American Jewish friends was “one of the reasons,” he said, why he wanted to bring the huge Koach mission here — to help strengthen the rising American Jewish leadership generation to face the challenges of the future.

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